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Historical Society to Host Forum to Preserve St. Paul’s June 17

Submitted by the Garden City Historical Society

The Garden City Historical Society will host a free forum on the preservation of the former Cathedral School of St. Paul (known by its familiar name, St. Paul’s School), which is currently the subject of exploration for demolition by the Village of Garden City. The Society’s Forum, “Garden City to Become Anytown, USA?” will be held at Cluett Hall at the St. Paul’s Recreation Complex, on Wednesday, June 17, at 7:30 p.m.

The Society has reached out to preservationists who can speak to the opportunities and satisfactions that preservation of historic structures afford to local communities and the need to preserve these structures that represent and epitomize the struggles and histories of the past. St. Paul’s School is currently listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places, and it was named by the Preservation League of New York State as one of its 2003 “Seven to Save.” Without these connections to the past, host communities risk becoming typical, non-descript, cookie-cutter communities, losing the unique identity that irreplaceable historic structures contribute.

The Garden City Historical Society’s forum will introduce attendees to the following preservation leaders: Alexandra Parsons Wolfe, director of Preservation Services, Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities; John M. Collins, architectural historian and preservation consultant to the Incorporated Village of Roslyn’s Historic District Board; Angelo Corva, R.A., chairman, Town of Hempstead Landmarks Preservation Commission, and Erin Tobin, regional director, Technical and Grant Programs, Eastern New York Preservation League of New York State.

Following brief presentations by the guest speakers and a short question-and-answer session, all are invited to a reception for the Society’s guest speakers to be held at The Garden City Historical Society Museum, 109 Eleventh Street. The reception will provide an opportunity for residents to continue discussion with the Society’s guests.

Noting the significance of the Historic St. Paul’s Main Building, in May 2009 the Society adopted the following resolution: “The Garden City Historical Society Board of Directors strongly urges the preservation of the former Cathedral School of St. Paul, an irreplaceable historic treasure, built in memory of Alexander T. Stewart, the visionary of one of this country’s first planned communities. Demolition of St. Paul’s School would result in the loss of a significant part of Garden City’s history and architectural heritage, as well as a contribution to the historic fabric of Long Island and the country. The loss of St. Paul’s School, an architectural, cultural and social landmark, would be another step closer in Garden City’s unfortunate transformation into Anytown, USA.”

Nearly 35 years ago, this community witnessed the demolition of The Garden City Hotel, the third hotel on the Stewart Avenue site and a design of the famed architect, Stanford White. The Grand Hotel, as it was called along with its two predecessors dating back to the founding of Garden City by Alexander Stewart, serviced notable individuals from around the world. At the time the wrecking ball smashed the façade of the hotel, a small group of onlookers vowed to preserve the architectural and historical heritage of their village. Two years later in 1975, seven residents banned together to form The Garden City Historical Society, which is now chartered by the State of New York. While the village has since lost the Cathedral School of St. Mary, several significant buildings from the days of Alexander Turney Stewart and his wife, Cornelia, remain, including The Cathedral of the Incarnation and St. Paul’s School, both built by Cornelia in her husband’s memory.

Thanks to the wisdom of early members of The Garden City Historical Society, St. Paul’s School is listed on the “national” and “State” Register of Historic Places. The school is one of 50 residential, commercial, religious and civic structures built as original elements of the planned community of Garden City between 1871 and 1893 and known as the A.T. Stewart-era Thematic Group.

St. Paul’s School has unique meaning to residents of all ages—from school children who have drawn and submitted images of St. Paul’s for the Historical Society’s annual children’s juried art contests and who participate in sports on the beautiful fields where St. Paul’s forms a spectacular backdrop; to families who gain a sense of pride and place by its existence; to alumni who have sentimental attachment and to longtime residents who have enjoyed higher property values attributed in part to St. Paul’s and the other remaining A.T. Stewart-era structures.

The Historical Society invites everyone to attend its St. Paul’s forum on June 17 at Cluett Hall.